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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: beijing winter olympics

Corporations Won Olympic Gold in 'Downhill Ethical Backflip'

By far the top team performance in this year's Winter Olympics in Beijing was corporate America's breathtaking double-twist ethical backflips.

This is a group of leading brand names that have so loudly been touting their code of ethics, pledging to stand against repressive regimes that abuse human rights. But here came the Olympic games in China, posing their first test, and it was not really a tough one. They were not asked to do anything, but merely to NOT do something — specifically, don't provide ethical legitimacy to the brutally repressive Chinese regime by sponsoring their propagandistic use of the Olympics.

Human rights advocates worldwide had called on global corporate giants to use their economic leverage to send a powerful message of disapproval to the Chinese dictatorship that is routinely committing acts of genocide and political suppression against Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kong citizens, and any other dissidents under their rule. Corporate leaders would not have to march, picket or otherwise muss up their high-dollar suits — just don't pay millions of shareholders' dollars to link arms and reputations with rank repression.

Well, if you watched any of the Olympic broadcasts, you witnessed the corporate choice: a collective backflip from the high ethical bar of human rights into the pits of crass, unprincipled commercialism. Look, there's the flag of Coca-Cola, and Visa, and Pizza Hut, AirBnb, Intel, Procter & Gamble... and a who's who of America's corporate all-stars. They paid more than a billion dollars to be proud sponsors of the regime's Olympic show, choosing access to China's leaders and markets over soft goals like ethics.

Well, sniffed one sponsor, raising testy political issues "would not advance the cause of sport in which our commitment lies." Really, how sporting is genocide? Another barked that "nobody, nobody cares what happens to Uyghurs, OK?" No, it's not OK, and also not true. And yet another clueless corporate boss cavalierly dismissed ethics by declaring, "Ski and sport have no business in politics... It's common sense."

No, it's cowardice, stupidity, and un-Olympian.

Corporate America's CEOs are mostly well-heeled money people who would hardly be considered athletic. Yet, every now and then a few of these soft elites bust out as championship players of an old game called Duck & Dodge.

It's a sport of political finesse played when social conditions reach a boiling point, threatening problems for the corporate order. In those moments, a few leading executives suddenly come out as social activists to side with the aggrieved. Ducking and dodging their own responsibility for grievances, these players claim that they will fix the system. When public attention drifts, however, so do the fixers, returning to business as usual.

You might recall, for example, the huffing and puffing leaders a year ago when our very democracy was under siege, not only by seditious right-wing extremist groups that stormed the U.S. Capitol, but also by a clique of pusillanimous, right-wing Congress critters who joined the coup attempt to overthrow the people's democratic vote. "Outrageous!" shouted some 700 corporate powerhouses in unison, pledging that they would save our democracy. How? By cutting off the huge campaign donations they'd been giving to those 147 Republican lawmakers who voted to overturn the election.

Let's pause here for a hypocrisy check: Aren't these born-again democracy champions the very same corporations that've been using their unlimited special-interest cash to purchase lawmakers wholesale and steal the people's political power? Yes... yet they now want us to believe they're our saviors.

But they've quickly reverted to their true selves. Within weeks of so sternly chastising members of Congress' "sedition caucus," the corporate donor class — shhhhh — quietly returned to lavishing bribery bucks on them. AT&T, Boeing, Citigroup, GM, Pfizer and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are among the corporate phonies that slipped $2.4 million in donations last year to members of Congress they had publicly condemned as un-American. It'd make more sense to trust a coyote to guard your last lamb chop than to think that corporations value anything but their own profit.

Populist author, public speaker and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at HightowerLowdown.org.

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Beijing Olympics Highlight Shattered Hopes For A Freer China

China is one of the greatest success stories of the past century. It is also one of the greatest tragedies. The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are a vivid illustration of how far the country has come from what it was in the 1960s and '70s — and how badly it has diverged from its promising course of two decades ago.

Even before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, freedom and democracy were on the march around the world. One dictatorship after another came tumbling down under popular pressure, including Spain, the Philippines, Chile, and South Korea. Between 1974 and 1990, the number of democracies in the world doubled — a rise that continued in the 1990s.

It was reasonable to think that in due time, China would join the parade. It had already achieved a miraculous reversal from the chaos, famine and savage repression it endured under Mao Zedong. Thanks to major economic reforms and the loosening of state control over its citizens, the country underwent a massive transformation for the better.

Economists at the World Bank wrote in 2002, "China has seen the most spectacular reduction in poverty in world history." The government allowed citizens greater freedom to move about the country, travel abroad and start businesses. Local governments incorporated elements of democracy. Censorship eased, foreign movies and TV shows were allowed and a modest space opened for political dissent.

The nation was on the same path taken by other countries, which became freer and more democratic once they reached a certain level of wealth and prosperity.

"Either China will remain relatively poor and authoritarian, or it will become rich and pluralistic — and it seems to have chosen the latter path," wrote Henry Rowen, a scholar at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, in 1996. He went so far as to predict a date when China would become a democracy: 2015.

Bad guess. Instead of reforming, the Beijing government has reverted: clamping down hard on opposition, censoring online and print media and subjecting its people to relentless surveillance.

For the past seven years, the human rights group Freedom House ranked China "the world's worst abuser of internet freedom." In his 2021 book, China's Leaders: From Mao to Now, George Washington University's David Shambaugh wrote, "Since coming to power (President) Xi Jinping has unleashed a sustained reign of repression and comprehensive controls on China not seen since the Maoist era."

Xi has also mounted a ferocious campaign against the Muslim Uyghurs (pronounced "we-gers") in the Xinjiang region, whom they see as a separatist threat. The offensive, says Freedom House, includes "the forced relocation of rural residents, the forced sterilization of Uighur women, the mass detention of Uighurs in 'political reeducation' centers, and the imprisonment of tens of thousands of others by the courts."

As many as two million Uyghurs have been imprisoned since 2017. A British human rights tribunal concluded that Beijing's policy amounts to genocide.

Hong Kong used to be an oasis of freedom. In 2020, though, China imposed a new "national security" law that drastically curtailed freedom of speech, press and assembly in the former British colony. Human rights activists have been locked up, and organizations that once took part in mass protests have closed down.

The Olympics were supposed to be a chance for the Beijing government to impress the world. But the games have brought attention to the very things that have made China a human rights pariah.

The United States, along with nine other countries, is refusing to send official representatives because of the "ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses," said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. Robert Ross, a China scholar at Harvard and Boston College, told me such scrutiny was "a price China was willing to pay. I don't think Xi Jinping cares."

Somehow China, unlike so many other countries, has managed to achieve prosperity without having to allow liberalization. One reason is that the rulers in Beijing learned from the Soviet Union and other dictatorships the dangers of relaxing their grip over political matters.

For the Chinese Communist Party, economic reform was a way to strengthen its dominant position. The paramount goal all along, says Hoover Institution scholar Michael Auslin, has been "to make the world safe for the party." So far, it has succeeded.

When China hosted the 2008 Summer Games, there were still grounds to believe it would soon evolve into a more civilized and humane country. The Olympics are back in Beijing, but that hope is gone.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.